WESTON – Dave Price has collected a lot of stories over the last 15 years. A five-time Emmy award-winner, he traded a job behind a corporate desk for one in front of a TV in 1995 when he started at a station in Erie, Penn. Eventually, he joined Fox’s flagship station in New York, WNYW-TV, as a weatherman and co-host before becoming the weather anchor for WCBS-TV in New York and then the CBS “Early Show.” He has spent seven holiday seasons entertaining U.S. troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. _
Price, 44, left CBS in mid-December after the network overhauled its morning news program, “The Early Show.” During his career, he has covered a wide range of stories, from 9/11 to Hurricane Katrina and the Haiti earthquake, to the inauguration of President Obama and the Gulf Oil spill.
Price is a member of The Conservative Synagogue (TCS) in Westport. Last August, he and Jacqueline Klinger were married at their Weston home by TCS’s Rabbi Jeremy Wiederhorn. He will share “Stories from a (Jewish) Weatherman” on Saturday, Mar. 12 at TCS. The evening will be a discussion, Price says, rather than a talk.
“A lot of people wonder what it’s like to be in the heart of a disaster, to be in Iraq, to be in Afghanistan, at Katrina, in Haiti,” he says. “They want to know what it’s like to do live TV when
you’re being catapulted off a three-story launch pad, or sitting in the cockpit of a Blue Angels F-18, dropping at a speed of 30,000 feet per second. When I run into people, they are often most curious about what it’s like to be in those places and ask about the challenges of reporting those experiences.”
Price was born and raised in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. More precisely, he says, “I was born there, went to Hebrew school and was bar-mitzvahed, all in Poughkeepsie. There will always be a part of me there – but enough about my bris,” he jokes.
Price grew up in a kosher home and regularly attended Temple Beth-El, the Conservative synagogue in Dutchess County. He still keeps kosher, which, he says, can be a challenge in some of the remote locations from which he has reported. After high school, Price studied industrial labor relations at Cornell then earned a graduate degree in organizational psychology at Columbia. He spent 10 years in corporate America before transitioning to TV.
What special skills did he need to learn in order to make the move? “I needed to learn CPR, in order to pick both my parents up off the floor when I told them I was leaving a corporate job behind to try my hand at television,” he says. “I went to Cornell, got a masters at Columbia, had a fully developed career in human resources. The only thing that would have made my parents more proud, perhaps, was if I had become an MD or gone to Harvard. So naturally they were stunned and worried. But they were also as supportive as any two Jewish parents could be when their son announces that he’s leaving Newport Beach, California for Erie, Pennsylvania just as winter is setting in, to take a job doing TV weather for just above minimum wage.”
One benefit of his work in television has been the wide range of experiences he’s had, from reporting amid war zones to appearing in a movie. In 2004, Price was cast in “Category 6: Day of Destruction,” as… a reporter, “a stretch role that showed my true acting chops,” he says.
Just before he was about to embark for the movie set in Winnipeg, he learned that the shoot was scheduled for Rosh Hashanah. “I pulled a page from Sandy Koufax and said, ‘I can’t shoot on Rosh Hashanah. I can get there and be ready to shoot the second after sundown, but I can’t shoot on the High Holidays.’ That was my first introduction to being a movie-star diva, and they agreed to reschedule,” he says. _
Price flew up to Winnipeg before the High Holidays and scoped out a Conservative synagogue for services. “We’re entering the period where you’re reflecting on the year that was, hoping to be inscribed in the Book of Life, and I’m trying to lock out the thoughts of my impending ‘movie super-stardom,’” he says. “I’m trying to find my way to the temple in a town I’m unfamiliar with, and BAM! I’m T-boned by a truck that slams my rental car within inches of a tree at the entrance to the temple parking lot. My first thought was, ‘Now THIS is the way you make a grand entrance into a Jewish community.’ Then, as soon as I crawled out of the car, I thought, “I guess I got my inscription.’”
Because of the nature of his job, Price sometimes winds up away from home during the Jewish holidays, but he always makes it a point to observe them, wherever he may find himself. One of the most beautiful Passover dinners he’s ever had was with the Jewish community at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, part of the Ramstein Air Base in Germany, while en route to Iraq.
“Everywhere I’ve gone, it’s nice to be able to connect somehow, whether you’re observing a Jewish holiday or simply making a cultural connection,” he says. “There’s a Welcome Wagon everywhere you go.”
As a journalist, Price stresses that his first responsibility is to report the facts, no matter who he’s with or what his ties may be. “That’s very important, and it’s one of the principles that we hopefully all learned as early as Hebrew school – telling the truth,” he says. “As a reporter, you have an obligation to understand and explore all angles of a story, to make sure that what you’re saying and reporting is well-rounded, well-researched, and factually correct.”
Price has traveled extensively around the globe and through much of the Arab world.
“I’m often amazed – given what we read and see in the the headlines – at a grassroots level, at the goodness of people across the globe, regardless of borders or religion, particularly among young people,” he says. “I’ve witnessed first-hand people who want to build bridges of understanding all around the world, regardless of the political ideology expressed by their governments and leaders.”
“I’ve been in countries where my religion itself could be problematic, but if I’m there to report, that’s what I do. I’ve also been in places where, at the time, it hasn’t been a particularly good thing to be from the West either. Those are challenging circumstances. So it is – that’s part of the job.”
But Price calls himself an optimist. “I am one who believes that, under the right circumstances and with the right leaders, a more peaceful world can exist,” he says. “Oddly enough, even as we squander peace in our generation, a great many people want to leave a better world for their children, and we just haven’t figured out how – yet.”
“An Evening with Dave Price: Stories from a (Jewish) Weatherman:” Saturday, Mar. 12, 7:15 p.m. The Conservative Synagogue, 30 Hillspoint Road, Westport Info: (203) 454-4673.